Orem • Diners who mourned the closing of Lamb’s Grill 18 months ago have a new reason to feel nostalgic: Most of the antique furniture and kitchen equipment from the iconic Salt Lake City restaurant have reappeared 40 miles to the south.
Inside the Tru Religion Pancake and Steakhouse, 360 S. State St., Orem, guests can once again sit at the Lamb’s Grill counter and order breakfast — or a cup of coffee — and admire the wooden back bar with its ornate carvings and mirrors.
Or they can sit in one of the refurbished art deco booths — still sporting the metal coat racks — and enjoy a plate of steak and eggs.
Diners can even walk through the swinging double doors that once led into the Lamb’s kitchen. At Tru Religion, the doors now serve as the entrances to the men’s and women’s bathrooms.
Tru Religion’s co-owners, Jim and Debi Leany, have estimated that more than 14.5 million guests — from prophets to power brokers — have used the furnishings.
By giving the historic pieces new life, they say, they will serve new generations of diners — many of whom never ate at Lamb’s.
Second chances are a theme at Tru Religion. Each year, the Leanys plan to hire someone in need of a hand up. Besides providing a job and paying the person’s living expenses, they have partnered with Utah Valley University to help pay for the employee’s culinary school tuition.
“I love the challenge of taking something that other people want to throw away and giving it a second chance,” said Jim Leany. “I see value in everything from furniture to people to food.”
Jacob Selene, who recently was released from the Utah State Prison after serving five years on drug charges, is the first person to benefit from the second-chances program. “Hopefully, in a few years, I’ll be working as a manager,” he said.
Tru Religion is inside the new Midtown 360 plaza, a mixed-use development with business and residential occupants. The breakfast-only restaurant opens every day at 8 a.m. and closes weekdays at 3 p.m. It stays open until midnight on Friday and 11 p.m. on Saturday but is closed Sunday.
The menu includes all the morning favorites, from omelets, French toast and waffles to crêpes, German pancakes and power porridge — a mix of rolled oats, buckwheat, flax, hemp seeds, chia seeds and quinoa. Most items are $12 or less, unless you want the cattleman cut steak. That’s $15.
The restaurant, which uses many Utah-made ingredients, presses its own fruit juices. Guests likely will chuckle at the Mormosa — a nonalcoholic version of a Mimosa that is a mix of sparkling apple cider and orange juice. (Tru Religion does not have a state liquor license.)
While the restaurant has been open only a few weeks, the giant “cat head” biscuits with white gravy — a Southern recipe that goes back to Jim Leany’s grandmother — are already among the most popular menu items.
Leany, a Brigham Young University graduate, is a third-generation restaurant owner. His family owns five in Colorado — including the Pufferbelly Station Restaurant in Grand Junction and Starvin’ Arvin’s truck stop eateries in Clifton, Delta, Fruita and Montrose.
Like most people who have lived in Utah, Leany was drawn to the story of Lamb’s Grill, one of Utah’s oldest and best-known restaurants. Originally opened by George P. Lamb in 1919 in Logan, it moved in 1939 to its Main Street location in Salt Lake City. Known for its old-school booths, white-linen tablecloths and ornate wooden counter, it was a favorite spot for Salt Lake City’s power players to have a bowl of lentil soup or a cup of coffee.
But when the Leanys purchased the Lamb’s furnishings in June 2017, it was under distressing circumstances.
John Speros — who, along with his father, Ted, had operated the venerable eatery for more than seven decades — was closing the century-old restaurant.
The new owners who took over the restaurant in 2011 were unable to meet financial obligations, and the business had reverted to the Speros family. The Speroses searched for new owners before deciding to sell the contents.
The street-level space at 169 S. Main St. is still empty, with a “for lease” sign on the window.
After selling the furnishings, Leany checked in with John Speros several times, keeping him updated on the progress of the Tru Religion construction and the Lamb’s restoration work.
Speros visited Tru Religion just before it opened in mid-November. “It’s remarkable,” he said. “For me, it was just like going home. All those things that he took out of Lamb’s are there.”
Even though the long Lamb’s counter had to be cut to just nine seats — the large back bar also was split to fit the new space — Speros is grateful for the painstaking effort that the Leanys took to “use every table, every chair.”
From the metal pie case to the cheese cutter, he said, “it’s remarkable.”
Speros said most diners never saw the antique wooden walk-in icebox in the back of the Lamb’s kitchen, but now it is the centerpiece of the waiting area at the front of Tru Religion. The massive box was taken down in 13 pieces, each weighing about 400 pounds.
“His vision was amazing,” Speros said. “His ability to look at Lamb’s and see how it could work in a new space. Anyone who has a history with Lamb’s will be flabbergasted at what they’ve done.”
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant — which seats about 150 people — has other antiques and historical items that did not come from Lamb’s Grill.
A giant wooden pulpit — pulled from a Presbyterian church in Denver — towers behind the hostess stand and is the first piece of furniture that guests will notice as they enter. Patrons who look up will see a crystal chandelier, rescued from a mansion that was to be demolished.
There’s also is a bright, red telephone box from London where kids can get crayons and coloring papers.
When Orem residents Julianne and Ron Eyre saw the sign for Tru Religion go up a few months ago, they were curious and looked it up online.
“When we read the story of how the owners restored the Lamb’s furniture and how it came together,” said Julianne, “we decided to bring our whole family.”
Shortly after Christmas, the group — which included children Jordan, Ashley and Kaden, as well as Jordan’s wife, Channing — arrived for an early dinner of breakfast fare.
They sat in the large booth, under the historic Salt Lake Tribune sign — so named because the bosses at the newspaper were regular Lamb’s customers.
Sadly, the Eyres never dined at Lamb’s, said Ron, “but we really loved that the owner cared for its history.”
The rest of Utah’s dining community feels the same way.